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Transfer station catches up after trash piled to capacity
Multiple causes led to last Sunday’s shutdown of convenience centers
SCOTT BRYANT/Herald File In this file photo, a truck loads up on compacted trash and garbage at the city/county station off Lakeview Road. The bales of trash are then trucked to a landfill in Jesup
SCOTT BRYANT/Herald File In this file photo, a truck loads up on compacted trash and garbage at the city/county station off Lakeview Road. The bales of trash are then trucked to a landfill in Jesup

By Thursday, the solid waste transfer station the city of Statesboro operates for all of Bulloch County had nearly caught up after a pileup of garbage that prompted a one-day closure of the county’s convenience centers Sunday.

“We’re pretty much caught up right now,” Jeff McCarty, Statesboro’s transfer station-landfill superintendent, said Thursday afternoon. “We’re going wide-open still, but we are caught up. We finally got everything worked out at the landfill in Jesup, and everything’s working good now.”

Saturday, he had called personnel at Bulloch County’s solid waste department around 1 p.m. and told them the transfer station could not accept any more waste during the weekend.

This prompted a notice on the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners’ page on Facebook:

“The Bulloch County Public Works Division and its Solid Waste Department wish to inform the public that all county solid waste convenience centers will have an emergency closing on Sunday, January 5, 2020.

“Bulloch County solid waste convenience centers, normally open on Saturdays and Sundays, are unable to accept trash, garbage and bulk waste because the transfer station operated by the City of Statesboro is unable to accommodate weekend delivery from county pick-up and delivery drivers,” the message continued, in part.

It also said that service would resume as usual Monday morning, which is what happened.

“Bulloch County regrets any inconvenience this may create and intends to work with the City of Statesboro and Republic Waste to remedy the situation going forward,” the Facebook statement had concluded.


Broadhurst connection

Republic Services operates the Broadhurst Landfill in Wayne County, where garbage from the transfer station owned by Statesboro and Bulloch County is hauled for final disposal. Locally, Statesboro operates only an inert landfill, just for yard waste, in addition to the transfer station.

Statesboro City Manager Charles Penny also mentioned the weekend backup during Tuesday morning’s City Council meeting. Last Friday, staff members had taken the three incoming new council members, who were sworn in Tuesday, on a tour of city facilities. At the transfer station, they saw a small mountain of waste accumulating under the structure’s roof.

An overload of waste at the transfer station is a cause of serious concern, Penny said in an interview.

“It was already overwhelming. We just didn’t want to add to the pile,” he said. “One of the things that can happen when you have solid waste, sometimes you have stuff in the debris that will cause fires, and so we don’t want to put our transfer station in jeopardy with that stuff sitting there.”


‘Domino effect’

Last weekend’s situation resulted from a pileup of factors, “like a domino effect,” with no one to blame, McCarty said. Those causes included a breakdown New Year’s week of one of Republic’s two tippers at the Broadhurst Landfill, while parts suppliers were closed and during wet weather that has slowed work, McCarty said. A tipper is a hydraulic machine that tips and empties big-truck trailers, such as those Rackleff Enterprises uses to haul Statesboro and Bulloch County’s waste to the landfill.

McCarty said the tipper was out of service for only a couple of days, but this occurred while post-Christmas waste was pouring in from all over. Not only the city and county, but dozens of private contractors bring waste to the Statesboro-Bulloch transfer station. Republic Services’ vast landfill, in turn, receives waste from many surrounding counties.

“Everybody was hauling, coupled with the fact that we couldn’t get any turnaround down there at the Broadhurst Landfill,” McCarty said. “So our contractors, their hands were tied, our hands  were tied, and then on top of that everybody was hauling trash, and on top of that our building is so small that it doesn’t take very much for us to get backed up.”


County reaction

Bulloch County does not provide house-to-house garbage collection, so the centers with clustered sorting bins offer the only convenient way for rural residents to discard trash and recyclables without subscribing to a private collection service.

In an email reply to the newspaper Thursday, Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch expressed regret for the sudden closing of the convenience centers and the way the public was notified.

He said he was not made aware of the situation at the transfer station until Saturday afternoon. At that time, he was told there had been communication between the city and county solid waste staffs earlier last week that a limit on accepting waste could occur over the weekend, he said.

“If I had been alerted of the situation promptly, the County at least could have had a chance to get some form of public notice issued earlier other than Facebook, or perhaps perform some contingency or logistical planning,” Couch wrote. “I am profoundly disappointed in the communication and service failure and wish to express my personal apology to the citizens it affected. 

“Rest assured that I am taking corrective action to avoid such failures in the future,” he continued. “I take solid waste collection and disposal seriously because it’s a public health and safety issue.”

Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles noted that Statesboro’s current-year capital improvements program budgets funds for planning and design work toward a transfer station expansion.


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